Report | Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center

Lighting the Way 4

American solar energy is booming. Hundreds of thousands more Americans each year are experiencing the environmental and consumer benefits of clean energy from the sun, often generated right on the rooftops of their homes or places of business.

Report | Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center

We Have the Power

America can address our largest environmental challenges by shifting to 100 percent renewable energy. Renewable energy makes us safer and healthier, protecting our communities from global warming and from hazardous air pollution. Renewable energy reduces the need for dangerous and destructive practices like shipping explosive fuels through our cities, fracking for gas near our water supplies, or razing our mountains to dig up dirty coal. 

An economy powered by 100 percent renewable energy is within our reach. First, we can reduce the total amount of energy we use through improved efficiency, even as our economy continues to grow. Second, we can tap America’s virtually inexhaustible supplies of energy from the wind, the sun, the land and the oceans.

Report | Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center

Solar on Superstores

Solar energy is expanding rapidly across the United States – increasing more than 100-fold over the past decade. But, there are still many untapped opportunities to harness the nation’s nearly limitless solar potential. The United States has the technical potential to produce more than 100 times as much electricity from solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) installations as the nation consumes each year. Given our abundant solar resources, America must take advantage of untapped opportunities to install solar technologies – like using rooftops of large superstores and “big box” retail stores as hosts for clean electricity generation.

Report | Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center

Blocking the Sun

Solar power is clean, affordable and popular with the American people. Since 2010, America’s solar energy capacity has grown more than four-fold, generating increasing amounts of clean energy at increasingly affordable prices.

America’s solar progress is largely the result of bold, forward-thinking public policies that have created a strong solar industry while putting solar energy within the financial reach of millions more Americans.

Behind the scenes, however, electric utilities, fossil fuel interests and powerful industry front groups have begun chipping away at the key policies that have put solar energy on the map in the United States – often in the face of strong objections from a supportive public.

Report | Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center

Lighting the Way

Solar energy is booming. In just the last three years, America’s solar photovoltaic capacity tripled. In 2014, a third of the United States’ new installed electric capacity came from solar power. And in three states – California, Hawaii, and Arizona– solar power now generates more than 5 percent of total electricity consumption.

Report | Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center

Shining Rewards

Solar energy is on the rise in the United States. At the end of the first quarter of 2015, more than 21,300 megawatts of cumulative solar electric capacity had been installed around the country, enough to power more than 4.3 million homes. The rapid growth of solar energy in the United States is the result of forward-looking policies that are helping the nation reduce its contribution to global warming and expand its use of local renewable energy sources.

One policy in particular, net energy metering, has been instrumental in the growth of solar energy, particularly on homes and businesses. Net energy metering enables solar panel owners to earn fair compensation for benefits they provide to other users of the electricity grid, and makes “going solar” an affordable option for more people. Net energy metering works by providing customers a credit on their electric bill that offsets charges for energy consumption. As solar energy has taken off in recent years, however, utilities and other special interests have increasingly attacked net metering as an unjustified “subsidy” to solar users.

Report | Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center

Shining Cities

The use of solar power is expanding rapidly across the United States. By the end of 2014, the United States had 20,500 megawatts (MW) of cumulative solar electric capacity, enough to power four million average U.S. homes. This success is the outcome of federal, state and local programs that are working in concert to make solar power accessible to more Americans, thereby cleaning our air, protecting our health, and hedging against volatile electricity prices.

America’s major cities have played key roles in the clean energy revolution and stand to reap significant benefits from solar energy adoption. As population centers, they are home to the largest electricity markets and can have an important influence on the way we power our grid. Many cities are already benefitting from smart policies that encourage investment in solar energy.